ELKINS - Holiday parties and family gatherings mean increased exposure to flu viruses, so representatives of Davis Health System urge everybody to get a flu shot before it's too late.
This year's vaccine will protect against the viruses that are likely to be most common this year.
Misti Shine, a nurse and infection preventionist, says, "The vaccine is a quadrivalent flu vaccine that protects against two A viruses - H1N1 and H3N2 - and two B viruses."
She said the best way to prevent the flu is to be vaccinated. "Folks should be vaccinated especially if they are in the high risk category including children younger than 5, adults 65 years of age and older and pregnant women."
Shine said influenza, or the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus. Serious outcomes of flu can require hospitalization and can, on occasion, lead to death.
Locally, the flu vaccine is being offered at various locations, including the Elkins-Randolph County Health Department. Residents can get vaccinated from 1 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and from 3 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays.
"We can bill insurance for the vaccine this year," Debbie VanPelt said. People will need their insurance card, she adds.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the flu is a contagious respiratory illness that affects the nose, throat and lungs - it can cause mild to severe illness including symptoms of fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue, and vomiting and diarrhea in children.
The flu is spread mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. The droplets land on the mouths or noses of people nearby. People also spread the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose.
Complications of the flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes.
This year, the CDC recommends that everyone who is at least six-months-old should get a flu vaccine for the season, and they say vaccinations should begin as soon as the flu vaccination is available. That's ideally by October, but getting vaccinated later can be protective as long as flu viruses are circulating. The flu usually peaks in January or later.
Shine also provided CDC fliers with tips about caring for people who get the flu.
The fliers say that most people with mild illness do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. Emergency warning signs in children with the flu include fast breathing, trouble breathing, bluish skin color, not waking up, and fever with a rash.
Medical attention should be sought for any infant who is unable to eat, has trouble breathing, has no tears when crying or has significantly fewer wet diapers than normal.
In adults, seek emergency medical treatment when flu causes difficult breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion and severe and persistent vomiting.
The CDC recommends people with the flu stay home for at least 24 hours after fever is gone. People with the flu also should stay away from others as much as possible, drink plenty of water and other clear liquids, treat fever and cough with medicines you can buy at the store, and contact a doctor if very sick, pregnant or suffering from a medical condition such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease.
Flu vaccinations are available at many local physician offices and pharmacies. Davis Memorial Hospital will offer flu vaccine clinics, and the dates and times will be posted when available.
Information about flu and related illnesses is available on-line at www.cdc.gov.
Contact Beth Christian Broschart by calling 304-636-2124, ext. 114 or by e-mail at bbroschart@theinter
mountain.com. Follow her on Twitter at IMT_Broschart.